Explore Philadelphia

"Peter Blume: Nature and Metamorphosis" Takes Over PAFA

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts mounts the first retrospective of the American modernist Peter Blume since 1976.

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts mounts the first retrospective, on view until April 5, of the American modernist Peter Blume since 1976. A force to be reckoned with in the art community, Blume's career spanned six decades, with influences ranging from architecture and nature to the growth and renewal of cities. On display are 159 drawing and paintings providing a look into the fascinating brain of Blume that produced a captivating collection of works that has baffled and intrigued audiences for years.

His paintings, often criticized and labeled as nonsensical and surreal during his career, are actually just the opposite. Challenging his predecessors' practices, Blume utilized a deliberate method of sketching dissimilar images and uniting them into one piece over time, creating an overall image that depicted a "new world of experience." He wanted his viewers to obtain multivalent meanings from his works and be compelled by the power of imagination. His paintings were a collection of the people and places he saw, as his travels were a huge inspiration for him. Wherever he traveled, he carried art supplies so he could document his surroundings and the animals, birds, plants and rocks. From New York, where he received schooling, to Sherman, Connecticut, Blume found beauty everywhere he went.

From Scranton to Italy, Bear Run, Pennsylvania to Easter Island, Blume felt deeply inspired by every new place he discovered. In Italy, where he studied as a Guggenheim Fellow, Blume was inspired by the great contrasts and uncommon beauty of the country, and the juxtaposition of the older buildings with the new. A simple yet beloved willow tree guarding his Sherman, Connecticut home makes an appearance in The Eternal City. In this same painting, a lurid jack-in-the-box representation of Mussolini also can be seen. Most all of his large-scale paintings are like this--slowly developed, with a seemingly random cast of characters and objects taking the main stage. Misunderstood as he was, it was these outlandish paintings that launched him to stardom in the art world. Blume, who also was influenced by his Jewish heritage and WWII, was seen to have a resounding Phoenix theme in his works; that is, a theme of renewal.

Despite gaining acclaim as a painter, it is his dynamic and meticulously crafted drawings that will inhabit the limelight in this thought-provoking retrospective. Essays on Blume's work, interviews and writings of the artist complement the exhibition celebrating Blume's lasting legacy in the world of art. The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 118 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, 215.972.7600